To most of us, the net on a tennis court divides the physical space between the opponents; the place where they move and play, a boundary to define whether a ball is in or out.
For Tommy Paul, one of the nation’s top teen tennis players, the net demarcates the psychic space of strategy, mental toughness, and a place where his dreams are fulfilled.
“He has always liked to compete, and he hates to lose,” explained Tommy’s mother, Jill MacMillan. She continued that “Tommy is pretty good at dissecting his opponents and constructing points.”
These words are from a proud and attentive parent, but also from Tommy Paul’s earliest coach.
Jill MacMillan taught the young Tommy how to play tennis at the family sports facility in North Carolina. “At about age five, he just picked up a racket and started hitting shots against the backboard all day long,” related Jill MacMillan about Tommy’s beginning as a tennis star.
With his mom and coach guiding him for several years, Tommy developed early into a top-tier player when he moved to formal training at the U.S. Tennis Association’s (USTA) training facilities in Boca Raton, Florida.
“Moving to the USTA was really good for Tommy, and I could just become mom again . . . and I really liked that,” suggested Jill as Tommy and mom both chuckled. Physical distance separates Tommy from his family, but Tommy explains that he gets to see his family regularly. His mom visits when she can, especially for tournaments and support when he needs it. “I travel back home for important family times, and my family always encourages me,” related Tommy.
To read the rest of this article, check out the latest issue of High School Illustrated – USA National Edition for iPad and iPhone, completely free on the App Store.